NFL Should Use Cameras To Make The Right Call

January 24, 2019

It is a terrible thing for an NFL official not to have seen what 73,000 people in the stadium and another 44 million watching on television saw. It’s even worse for NFL officials to have to admit to the losing coach that game officials blew a call that, quite likely, affected the outcome of a championship game. Here’s what happened Sunday during the NFC championship game in New Orleans between the Saints and the Los Angeles Rams: With the game tied, 20-20, and the Saints with third down on the Rams’ 13-yard-line and 10 yards to go for a first down, quarterback Drew Brees threw a ball toward the sidelines to receiver Tommy Lee Lewis. Well before the ball arrived, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman clobbered Lewis in a textbook case of pass interference. But there was no call. Instead of a first down and three plays to make a touchdown, the Saints kicked a field goal on fourth down. The Rams kicked a field goal on their ensuing possession and then won on another field goal in overtime, 26-23. A league official later called Saints coach Sean Payton and acknowledged not only that the game officials had missed the interference call, but also missed that Robey-Coleman made helmet-to-helmet contact with Lewis, a separate penalty. For years, the league has emphasized calling that penalty in the name of reducing the number of concussions suffered by players. For the NFL, this is even more important than simply getting it right. Due to a Supreme Court decision last year overturning a federal law that had limited state-sanctioned sports betting, gambling is a growing enterprise. With billions of dollars riding on games, blown calls inevitably will call the league’s integrity into question. The problem easily is resolvable. The NFL should retain its current rules regarding how coaches may challenge certain calls, but it also should give its replay officials authority to overturn any call at their discretion. There is little doubt that such a rule would have produced a correct call Sunday. Dozens of cameras cover every angle of every NFL game, and that number grows for playoffs. It is foolish not to use them to get it right.

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